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Presidential guards attack four journalists

(MFWA/IFEX) - Four Sierra Leonean sports journalists including Mohamed Fajah Barrie, the president of the Sports Writers' Association of Sierra Leone (SWASAL) were on September 3, 2011 violently assaulted by two members of the presidential guards at the National Stadium in Freetown, the capital.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that the presidential guards identified only as "Sullay" and "Kabbah" beat up the journalists to such an extent that Barrie, a BBC correspondent in Freetown, lost consciousness and was hospitalised. He has since been discharged from the hospital.

The incident occurred after an African Cup qualifying match between the country's senior national team and their Egyptian counterpart, where Barrie had gone to conduct a post-match interview.

"He was stopped by the guards despite the fact that he had a Press Pass, a BBC ID card and a BBC-labelled microphone (. . .) While he tried to explain that it is common practice for journalists to enter the field to do interviews, guard Sullay allegedly attempted to pick his pocket. At this stage, Kabbah rushed in and started beating Barrie," the correspondent said.

According to the correspondent, the other journalists, Kemoh Sesay, reporter for "Exclusive" newspaper and Universal Radio, Alhaji Tarawallie, from Premier Tok, and Sulaiman Storm Koroma, from Radio Democracy, were also attacked when they attempted to rescue Barrie. The three sustained serious bodily injuries.

This attack comes in the wake of Barrie's condemnation of recent threats against sports journalists in the country. Barrie stated that the attacks had succeeded in instilling fear into SWASAL's members, which is affecting their work.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Leonean Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has condemned the attack on the journalists. In a statement, SLAJ President, Umaru Fofana condemned the heinous behaviour of the guards and called on President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government to bring them to book and let justice be served, in order to show respect for the rule of law in Sierra Leone.

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